A lemon dessert

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Though available throughout the year, Spring seems particularly special for lemons. And, while I've tasted them in different ways, one of the most popular image and flavor that my mind associates with the sight and smell of a lemon is a childhood dessert from my mother’s kitchen. And interestingly enough, growing up in India limes were more popular than lemons, except when making this dish.

It seems odd that the association of lemons with eggs and sugar has been described in ways that does not make intuitive sense: for instance, "lemon cheese" and more popularly, "lemon curd" are terms that are used to describe the smooth, cream-like dish made by carefully heating a mixture of lemon juice, eggs and sugar – with no milk, much less curds or cheese. But, lemon curd is the name that everyone relates to, and here’s a method to make lemon curd:

Lemons

Eggs (whole eggs instead of just yolks can be used to make a lighter lemon curd)

Sugar

Butter

Depending on the type of lemon and preference for citrus flavor, mix the juice of one to two lemons, and the zest of a lemon, with four to five yolks and between half to three-quarter cups of sugar depending on preference for sweetness. Continuously whisk this mixture over a low flame until it thickens to a cream-like consistency. Adjust heat to avoid scrambling the egg yolks but to allow for the mixture to thicken. A curved-sided heavy bottom pan helps for this purpose. Add a few tablespoons of butter towards the end, whisk to a smooth, silky consistency and then chill the mixture in an ice-bath to prevent further cooking before refrigeration. Since lemon curd can spoil easily make in small batches. To make a lemon curd tart, fill a fully baked pastry shell with the lemon curd just before serving.

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The Williamsburg Cookbook released by the Colonial Williamsburg foundation, in describing a recipe for lemon chess tarts - in what looks like a recipe for lemon curd tart - says that the fifteenth century precursor of this tart contained just light pastry and cheese. With time while cheese was no longer used, the old name remained, along the way also changing from cheese to chess, a misnomer that is used to this day in some bakeries and books. Recipes change with time, and their names do too, but not always in conjunction with each other. Why? Does the oddity of a recipe's name remain to pique curiosity, to tell a story?

 

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6 thoughts on “A lemon dessert

  1. Elisabeth

    Interesting history! Beautiful pictures! Lemon curd is one of my favorite things and reminds me of spring too!

    Reply
  2. nirmala

    My most favourite desert of all seasons- lemon curd tart. The tart shell in the photograph looks perfectly baked which compliments the smooth silky texture of the tangy lemon curd.

    I look forward to your blog both for the recipes you share and also for the history of the food well communicate in a nutshell . It enriches the reader's knowledge.

    Compliments to you for a very well written and photographed.blog.

    Brings back memory of of both lime and lemon tree in our backyard lush and heavy with the yield and the joy of sharing them with friends besides using plenty in cooking.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you very much!

      Your backyard lime and lemon tree sounds lovely to picture, I can quite imagine the fragrance of the fruits!

      Reply
  3. Jeff

    I didn't know chess pie had anything to do with cheese - that is an interesting history. The color of the tart is beautiful - like a sunflower. Mom loves lemons and limes so we grew up enjoying them too - lemon bars, lemon grove cake, lemonade, and refreshingly chilled key lime pie. Looking forward to spring and summer! Thank you as always for teaching us, sharing beautiful colors, and bringing memories of wonderful flavors and cherished times.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you, Jeff!

      All those desserts you mention and especially the lemon grove cake are definitely getting me excited for Spring!

      Reply

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